Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone
As an avid backpacker, I love traveling on the cheap. When I have to choose between staying in hostel and hotel I’d usually stick to a hostel (even if I can pay for a hotel). Finding best airfare deals, exploring local markets and pushing my mental boundaries have long been my best friends. Being a traveler means you never miss an opportunity to learn something new. This is why breaking out of your comfort zone from time to time is an effective tool for exploring the world. You can expect to meet people and experience cultures that are drastically different than in your country.
Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone
Several years ago I decided to set off for Sri Lanka. My budget wasn’t big, so it was supposed to be a no-frills trip. I called my friend to ask if he could join me, he agreed and we started planning.
We were about to go through an ordinary travel planning process – buying plane tickets, booking accommodation, packing backpacks – nothing out of the ordinary. We have set the departure date and picked the accommodation, so I proceeded with the rest part of the process. After providing the necessary information for the booking engine, it was only a matter of time before the e-tickets appear in my inbox.
However, after receiving a message and opening it I was a bit shocked. The tickets came with the wrong date. Apparently, I made a typo when inputting data late at night. As a result, we ended up with tickets that were to bring us to Bandaranaike International Airport a day earlier and what is even more unpleasant at night. Those tickets were non-refundable, so we decided to go anyway to avoid paying fees and break out of our comfort zone.
As we landed we in Sri Lanka we were happy to feel that gentle breeze and enjoy lovely September weather. Taxi drivers were trying to find their customers, while tuk-tuk drivers were willing to bring down a price. Wattala – our destination – was around 22 kilometers (14 miles) away, it was 1 AM and we were eager to finally get some sleep.
After making up a decision of going with tuk-tuk we were suddenly approached by a teenage boy. He asked us if we were going to Wattala, and after standing irresolute for a couple of seconds offered to give us a lift. But we were expected to pay for gas. Still wondering what he was up to, we approached the old pickup truck with an open cargo area full of bales of straw, rusty pipes and building materials.
After recovering from shock we decided to go and very soon we found ourselves in the back of a pickup rushing along the highway. It turned out that bales of straw, rusty pipes and building materials were supposed to be used in a new house, which they bought near our accommodation.
Breaking out of your comfort zone in Sri Lanka during the inter-monsoon period can be very pleasant. Not only the region has a lower chance of rain but you get an opportunity explore all these hidden gems in the inner parts of the island. On one of the first days of our stay, we rented a bike to do just that.
Riding a bike on the island is quite an experience. Especially if you have never done it before. Since most roads in Sri Lanka are quiet, with light traffic, it doesn’t take much skill to ride it. At the same time, it is a great tool for stepping out of your comfort zone.
It turned out that my friend has a different type of travel personality. I’m more into constant exploring, while he is more of a beach junkie. Because of the fact that Sri Lanka has so much to offer, it really doesn’t matter what activities you’re into. In fact, I love almost all activities available in Sri Lanka but there is never enough time to do and try everything.
On the next day, we were sitting on the steps of our modest dwelling and planning our trip to Pettah market in Colombo. We were laughing and discussing the way we traveled from the airport. Suddenly, the same teenage boy approached us and offered a good discount on the goods his uncle was selling in the Pettah market.
It was another confusing situation, but again we decided to give this generous gesture a try. Sometimes life has a way of surprising you! It turned out that the teenage boy and his dad who gave us a lift just two days earlier stuck near the airport without a drop of gas. By asking us to go with them they were only trying to reach their home. They felt embarrassed about telling the truth that night, that is why they wanted to return the favor. Of course, we gladly took advantage of the offered discount.
If you’re going to Colombo consider paying Pettah market a visit. I can hardly name more eye-opening experience.
Situated around 10 kilometers from Wattala, the Pettah Market is, perhaps, one of the best spots to break out of your comfort zone. This expansive market is definitely very popular amongst the locals and provides a chance of honing your haggling skills.
When we arrived the market was filled with locals selling virtually everything from street food to suitcases. The most exhausting part about visiting Pettah is how complicated navigating around the market can be. Exploring a winding maze of interconnected streets can drain you physically, so it would be wise to get appropriate footwear before you go. It took us twenty minutes to find the compartment. While I wasn’t spoiled for choice, I still enjoyed this improvised shopping experience.
Shopping there can actually be cheaper than anywhere else in Colombo. Just make sure to haggle. I haggled every time I found decent goods and saved a significant amount of money.
Even if you are not a travel junkie frantically trying to save money, a market is a right place for engaging with locals. Markets are usually overcrowded, full of different smells, cultures, and shops. Some vendors aren’t trustworthy and can be difficult to interact with. Some others may sell items that are totally worth tolerating the inconvenience.
Definitely, no one should venture into such places without decent preparation. You should exactly know what to expect since we’re all different. I found Pettah neighborhood to be safe for travelers, however, due to crowds, you should beware of pickpockets and scams. While breaking out of your comfort zone is an integral part of traveling, you’ll notice that it can be very rewarding. What is the benefit? You become a more open-minded person, easily accept changes and learn from it.
Some people consider stepping out of their comfort zone something that requires extreme. I’m no extreme, I’m more into exploring foreign cultures and the ways how people live on the other side of the globe. Overcoming your travel fears is one of the ways of breaking out of your comfort zone, believe it or not.